An Interview with Steve Almaas

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Veteran Indie and Punk rocker Steve Almaas is with us today for a chat. Steve has a new record out called Everywhere You’ve Been, which you can check out here. Also on our docket, we touch on his roots, his time in both the Punk and Cow Punk scenes, his thoughts on the industry today, his favorite records, and more. Dig in.

Andrew:
Steve, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. It’s been some year. What have you been doing to keep your mind off the ever-raging dumpster fire?

Steve:
The pandemic has been doing a pretty good job of taking my mind elsewhere. My partner is a nurse practitioner, and she was on the front lines. It’s a crazy year indeed…

Andrew:
Tell us a bit about your backstory? How did you get into music?

Steve:
I’m of that generation that saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. The world was one way the day before and another the day after. I knew where I wanted to be after that…

Andrew:
As an artist and songwriter, who are some of your earliest influences? As you’ve evolved musically, how have those influences changed?

Steve:
I was a Beatles, Stones, Dylan guy, and all the other great 60s music. When I was a teenager, there was a great Blues scene in Minneapolis. Later, I started going back from the Beatles, Stones, Dylan and got way into Rockabilly, R&B, and Country.

Andrew:
You were one of the founding members of NYC Country Rock band, Beat Rodeo. Home in the Heart of the Beat is a great record. Tell us how the band came together. What led to the band meeting its end?

Steve:
We came together in the early 80s, a fantastic time to be living in New York and being in a band. There were so many places to play for good money, Danceteria, Peppermint Lounge, Maxwell’s in Hoboken, The Lone Star. Beat Rodeo was taking the Rockabilly, R&B, and Country influences and writing new songs. We got our grab for the brass ring, made a couple of albums for IRS, and played many good gigs all over the States and in Europe. We lost our record deal, which took the wind out of our sails. When things didn’t seem to be moving forward anymore, we called it a day.

Andrew:
You were also a member of The Suicide Commandos, and you’ve also worked with Ali Smith. Tell us about those projects and how they came together.

Steve:
The Suicide Commandos was in the 70s and the albums I made with Ali were in the 2000s. The Suicide Commandos was an original issue Punk Rock band from Minneapolis. We made a glorious noise for a couple of years and then committed suicide. I moved to New York after that and the rest was history.

Ali Smith was the bass player in Speedball Baby and a noted photographer. She was also my girlfriend then. We sang a lot together around the house. I look at the albums we made together (two) as valentines to her.

Andrew:
You’ve got a new record coming out. It’s called Everywhere You’ve Been. Tell us about the recording of the album. What was the inspiration? How have you evolved as a musician and songwriter.

Steve:
The meat and bones of this album were recorded at Eric Ambel’s studio, Cowboy Technical Services in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We did bass, drums, and many guitars and vocals there. I also recorded in Woodstock, NY, Kernersville, NC, where the album was mixed (at Mitch Easter’s Fildelitorium) and out in Santa Fe, NM, where guitarist and pedal steel player Jon Graboff lives.

The inspiration was that I felt like I had written enough good songs to make an album. I think this record incorporates everything I’ve learned over the years. If you keep working at something, you often get better at it.

Andrew:
Where can we get your new record, and what formats will it be released on?

Steve:
The album is being release on vinyl, CD and download. The label is Lonesome Whippoorwill out of Sweden. The distributer is Border Music. I have just learned that Redeye, the North Carolina-based North American independent distributor, has acquired Sweden-based music distribution company Border Music.

Andrew:
This is your 6th solo effort. What sets this one apart? Do you feel it’s your best work to date? If so, why?

Steve:
Best is pretty subjective, but I will say I stand behind this album 100% and I think it’s as good as anything I’ve ever done. It’s a culmination of all that I’ve learned over the years (hence the title).

Andrew:
Let’s switch gears a bit now. Tell me your thoughts on the current state of the music scene these days? What’s it like out there for an indie artist?

Steve:
For someone like me, I think the new way of doing things is the only reason I’m still at it. Mom and Pop outfits like myself have a platform to keep releasing albums. I think it’s great.

Andrew:
There are many artists out there who are fantastic but get stuck in the underground, while others go on to great success. What is it about our culture that causes this to happen? Do you think the general public is truly listening?

Steve:
I think there’s so much music out there now that it’s harder than ever to “make it.” The amount of album reviews in Mojo and Uncut each month is staggering. How could you possibly listen to all that music? I feel lucky that some people know me from a time when there was a lot less of everything. I was in a Punk Rock band when you could own ALL the Punk records there were.

Andrew:
In the world we live in today, we are more or less dominated by big business and the never-ending barrage of social media. How has this affected music as an art form? Is an artist’s ability to get their music out there hindered by all this, or helped?

Steve:
In my case, it’s helped. It was a lot harder to do everything back in the day.

Andrew:
One of the disturbing things I’ve come to learn over time is that streaming services don’t pay well. What are your thoughts on that? How do we as fans help?

Steve:
I try not to think about it. It is a bad deal for the artists, but if musicians keep letting them rob us, they’ll keep robbing us. Fortunately, I’m not in it for the money…

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Steve:
I have a carefully curated small record collection, I don’t really lesson to tapes or CDs much anymore, and I have 29,000 songs on my phone. I get daily pleasure from listening to them on shuffle.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you, and why?

Steve:
That list is too long…Rubber Soul, Face To Face by The Kinks, Innervisions, Marquee Moon, The first Ramones album, Blonde On Blonde, Sincerely by the Dwight Twilley band, Low, Catch A Fire, The Harder They Come Soundtrack, London Calling, The Band’s 2nd album, Pet Sounds, What’s Going On, Clear Spot

Andrew:
All musical possibilities aside, what else are you passionate about? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Steve:
I am really grateful that I have music to think about. Besides that, my family, my dog, being out in nature. I make my living as a teacher in a high needs school, so I guess you could say that social justice is important to me.

Andrew:
Last question. In a world that’s been so confined by the constraints of big business and the alienation caused due to the internet age, how do artists find their footing these days? What advice would you have for younger artists?

Steve:
We do still live in a society where the ills you mention are a choice. My advice is to turn off the computer, put down the phone, open your eyes and ears and look and listen to what’s around you. With all the distractions available, that’s easier said than done. I’m a little harsh when it comes to making art. My attitude is if you have to do it, you’ll do it, and if you don’t, there’re plenty of other things to do. Again, I feel very fortunate that I have writing songs to think about.

Interested in learning more about the work of Steve Almaas? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

5 thoughts on “An Interview with Steve Almaas

  1. To add a bit more to the story, Steve played bass in our Mahavishnu-style jazz fusion band, Sky King (not the Brubeck one) with my brother David (Boiled in Lead) on violin, Mark Freeman (NNB, Red House) on guitar, me on keyboards (Phil Glass, Mill City Band, Infinity Art Unit, The Intuitive Bikers) and Jim Wilson on drums. This was just before The Suicide Commandos. Steve was a Deadhead then, maybe still is. I like to think we were a part of his musical education.

    1. Thanks for sharing and adding in that additional info. Steve is a great guy and an amazing musician!

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